Generalship in combat is extraordinarily difficult, and many seasoned officers fail at it. During World War II, senior American commanders typically were given a few months to succeed, or they’d be replaced. Sixteen out of the 155 officers who commanded Army divisions in combat were relieved for cause, along with at least five corps commanders. Since 9/11, the armed forces have played a central role in our national affairs, waging two long wars—each considerably longer than America’s involvement in World War II. Yet a major change in how our military operates has gone almost unnoticed. Relief of generals has become so rare that, as Lieutenant Colonel Paul Yingling noted during the Iraq War, a private who loses his rifle is now punished more than a general who loses his part of a war.
From bestselling author Thomas E. Ricks’ article “General Failure,” in The Atlantic.
The piece is an extended excerpt from his new book The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today, and will make you rethink pretty much everything you know about the military and U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century.